Thursday 14 December 2017

Midas Touch can end Ballydoyle's Derby drought

Damien McElroy

The Ballydoyle/Coolmore alliance will be hoping favourite Jan Vermeer steps up to the mark today in his "super sub" role for the absent St Nicholas Abbey as they chase a first Investec Derby triumph since 2002 at Epsom, where Fame And Glory starred yesterday.

Last year's Derby runner-up to brilliant compatriot Sea The Stars stepped out of the shadow of that once-in-a-lifetime colt by putting Sariska and company to the sword in the Coronation Cup, as Johnny Murtagh executed pre-race tactics to perfection.

The Meath pilot, who has the utmost confidence in Jan Vermeer, and Cork colleague Colm O'Donoghue, aboard decent second string Midas Touch, will have Seamus Heffernan towing them along aboard At First Sight in the 12-runner field in much the same way as he ensured a proper gallop with Fame And Glory's pacemaker Dixie Music yesterday, until the favourite took charge off the home bend.

At that vital juncture, with Tattenham Corner and the downhill section behind them, it's anyone's guess what will then unfold.

Are we to witness Jan Vermeer taking the bull by the horns and emulate Sea The Stars with a withering run to victory, or might we see Midas Touch taking a leaf out of 2002 hero High Chaparral's book by upping the ante from early in the straight and staying there?

Of course, we run the risk on this side of the Irish Sea of believing it's advantage Ballydoyle this afternoon, before the dozen runners leave the stalls on this notoriously tricky Surrey circuit, because they're in the privileged position of fielding two of the three surviving prime market fancies, even with long-time favourite St Nicholas Abbey confined to his box with a pulled hip muscle.

However, established form lines and the manner of their trial victories at the Curragh and Leopardstown suggest Jan Vermeer and Midas Touch are up to the required standard to play a pivotal role, at least in this celebrated Classic, despite their connections having failed here with more than 20 runners since High Chaparral mastered stable companion Hawk Wing.

A year ago, the finishing order devolved into an Irish monopoly, with Sea The Stars foiling yesterday's Coronation Cup winner Fame And Glory as well as three of his stablemates, Murtagh choosing fourth-placed Rip Van Winkle ahead of the runner-up. This time, the reigning Irish champion had an easier choice, with Jan Vermeer having defeated Midas Touch on each of their two meetings as juveniles at Gowran Park and Saint-Cloud.

Nevertheless, there's a lingering suspicion that a mile and a half on a lively surface will suit Midas Touch to perfection and, if there's any value left at this juncture, the percentage call might be to row in with O'Donoghue's mount each-way instead, as the son of Montjeu clocked a fast time when finishing strongly to land the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown four weeks ago.

Paddy Power last night offered 7/1 if you fancied Aidan O'Brien to saddle the first and second in any order, while William Hill believe it's an 8/1 chance he will complete the Derby double at Epsom and Chantilly this weekend.

Verdict: 1 Midas Touch; 2 Jan Vermeer; 3 Workforce

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